Fear Thesaurus Entry: Conflict

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental illness, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc.

A Fear of Conflict

Notes: Disagreements happen, and while most of us don’t like confrontation, we understand we need to face these moments of friction and try to resolve them. But for some, the threat of conflict sparks such heightened anxiety a person will do anything in their power to avoid it. As you can imagine, characters who fear conflict will struggle in the story because it is something they face again and again on the path to their goal. (For a list of conflict scenarios to use in your story, go here.)

What It Looks Like
Being a people-pleaser
Holding back
Being highly agreeable
Lying when someone asks if something’s wrong (telling them it’s fine)
Not complaining
Putting up with problems rather than bother others for help addressing them
Avoiding certain topics when in a conversation
Changing the topic when things are getting heated between others
Avoiding people who are aggressive and outspoken
Being highly proactive or over-prepared (so nothing will go wrong)
Tentative questions
Finding it almost impossible to say No
Being unhappy or dissatisfied but not voicing it (not saying anything about an undercooked meal at a restaurant, for example)
Not returning things that are broken or under warranty
Putting up with annoyances rather than asking someone to stop
Always giving in
Accepting blame when it isn’t deserved
Letting others have their way
Letting others take the credit
Working harder to make up for another’s deficiency (laziness, a lack of knowledge, poor management skills, etc.) rather than talk to them about it
Not rocking the boat
Telling people what they want to hear
Echoing popular opinions if asked
Coming across as overly nice
Withdrawing or becoming quiet when others are upset
Being a perfectionist
Not self-advocating
Letting other people make the decisions
Being unable to lead effectively
A lump in the throat, causing visible swallowing
Feeling on the verge of tears if confronted
A shaky voice
Backing away from people who are emotionally activated
Collapsed shoulders; taking up less space when threatened

Common Internal Struggles
Wanting to escape when a confrontation happens
Worrying about whether something they are doing is annoying others
Resenting people for the things they do that make life harder instead of asking them to change
Thinking about the worst case scenario
The character putting their needs last
Self-directed anger after a confrontation for not self-advocating or standing up for what was right (sabotaging self-esteem)
Being uncertain in the moment
Struggling to manage heightened anxiety symptoms and just wanting to flee

Flaws That May Emerge
Cowardly, Defensive, Dishonest, Evasive, Gullible, Indecisive, Inhibited, Insecure, Martyr, Needy, Nervous, Oversensitive, Paranoid, Perfectionist, Resentful, Subservient, Timid, Uncommunicative, Weak-Willed, Withdrawn, Workaholic, Worrywart

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
Becoming overburdened because others take advantage of their inability to say no
Being viewed as timid and weak by others
Having people in their life that they don’t really like because they can’t take steps to sever the relationship
Being taken advantage of by others (who may not even realize they are doing so)
A lack of assertiveness keeping the character on the sidelines at work
Becoming burnt out
Doing what others want, not what they want
Personal dreams and goals being put on hold
Problems that grow and lead to dysfunctional situations that will eventually explode

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
Receiving criticism (even when it’s constructive)
Being asked to weigh in, especially during a heated exchange between others
When the character is late or there’s a delay that will be noticed by others
Disagreements in relationships
Arguments and yelling
When the character makes a mistake or can’t follow through (even when there’s a legitimate reason)
Being asked to lead
Having to deliver bad news
Having to raise a complaint, follow through on a warranty claim, or return something to a store
When someone is angry or frustrated around the character.

Don’t forget to check out our Other Fear Thesaurus entries.


Source: writershelpingwriters.net

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